Friday, April 12, 2019

Chronology of Cabbage*

*CABG (pronounced "cabbage") is medical shorthand for my heart operation. I like the vegetable and resent having to think of my operation every time March 17 rolls  around.

This is the timeline, with some details, of my open heart surgery. If I leave anything out that you want to know about, just ask.

JANUARY 30 (?)

I believe this was the day I had a minor stroke that robbed me of much of my peripheral vision on the left side.

I did not think I had a stroke. Everything I heard about strokes told me to check my face, hands, lips, limb strength, etc., and not a single word about vision. So, I went about my business expecting this would clear up (I had a previous experience a couple of years earlier when something like this had happened and taking a nap allowed me to wake up refreshed and 100%. This time, I woke up still blurry on one side.)

Since I still had no idea it was a stroke, I called and made an eye appointment. I was thoroughly checked by my eye doctor and  no eye problems found (except for loss of peripheral vision in the left eye, of course) and she suggested I contact a regular doctor.


Made an emergency appointment with a doctor. MY WIFE, of course, helped with all of this since I am helpless with doctors, not having seen one for anything in at least 20 years. Doctor examined me and scheduled me for MRI on Saturday following.

Later that night, after we got home, call came from doctor re-scheduling MRI for next day instead of Saturday (which was two days away, so now I knew they thought it was serious.)


Had MRIs, which is scary. You're slid inside this tube that is very close fitting, told to lie very still and have horrible sounds bombard you for 45 minutes. First time they slid me in, I immediately rang the panic buzzer for them to slide me out. I asked them to call MY WIFE. They did. She came and put a hand on my ankle for the duration, giving me a lifeline. Thanks to her, I got through the rest of it OK.

Turns out I had a stroke. The MRI photos showed I had two of them - one recently and another a few years back possibly. Also I was shown to have had two heart attacks I was unaware of.


I was sent, by ambulance, to Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge (near Watertown) to stay overnight and have tests.


So I spent four nights in the hospital being tested and given all sorts of new meds. Since I had never been prescribed ANYTHING before, every drug they gave me was new. Lower cholesterol, regulate heartbeat, thin blood, anti-anxiety (I enjoyed that), and about five others. I went from 0 drugs to 8 or 9 overnight.

Every test anyone gave me in person - press my fingers, follow this flashlight with your eyes, smile, whistle, whatever to do with stroke symptoms - I passed magnificently. Every time, following one of these testings, I fully expected to be released the next day and sent home to live normally. However, every one of these tests was followed by CT Scan, MRI, other mechanical testing, x-rays, whatever, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE CAME BACK WITH THE WORST POSSIBLE RESULT.

I'm generally an optimist, but I knew without a doubt where this was headed. I had dreaded the possibility of open heart surgery ever since My Dad had it in the late 80s. At the time, I had been the only one to take care of him (only child, he was divorced) and it was miserable. Before and after that operation, he was two entirely different people. Before: Robust, totally self-assured, unafraid of almost anything. After: Tired, not wanting to do anything, no desire for most things.

As it turned out, I was right. As each test came back, the doctors spoke about operations until finally they said I should have open heart bypass surgery as soon as possible. I was devastated. It was my biggest fear become reality.


Released from the hospital, which was nice. I was given some fuzzy idea of when the surgery would take place. As it turned out, it was a month away, March 5. They wanted to do it as soon as possibile, since they thought I was in danger of dying, but they also wanted to be sure I wouldn't have another stroke during the operation so they had to wait.


Had some further scattered tests, kept up on new medications, tried my best to compartmentalize my life and ignore what was coming. Best thing to come of it was quitting smoking after 48 years. I did so in January and have kept it up, Thank God. I can't even imagine how horrible this would have been if I was still smoking.

(Continued with the operation itself, soon. Thanks for listening.)



silly rabbit said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for these details, my friend. I am so thankful for your wife (bless her, bless her, bless her.) My Heart smiled as I visualized her hand on your ankle and the reassurance that gave you. What a blessing your soulmate is.
I continue to pray for you, my friend.
You are healing one day at a time, and you have made tremendous strides following your surgery.
Hugs and love from here to there,

joeh said...

Thanks to your stroke, I decided last week to take my Doctors advise and take 10 mg a day of a statin to bring my cholesterol to a safer level.

Take it slow I know you will get stronger every day.

Anonymous said...

I take the fact that you are writing about it all as a very good sign of your steady recovery. I can't blame you one bit for your fears and I totally share your MRI panic.

Keep healing. <3


(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

Here’s to seeing blog posts for years to come.

Ami said...

Oh how I hate MRI machines.
"Oh!" the tech says brightly, "You get to be in the HUGGING tunnel today!"


I'm glad you've recovered sufficiently to write a bit. And super glad you're not smoking anymore. I quit 26.5 years ago for good.

Hang in there for at least another 20 years, m'kay?

Craig said...

Oh, man, I HATE that MRI machine. Mine was at 4AM, 'cuz, you know, can't leave a machine that expensive sitting idle overnight. I was in there about 15 seconds, and said something like, "I don't think I can do this," which the tech conveniently didn't hear. I spent the entire half-hour just concentrating on taking my next breath. . .

A word about statins - the most common side effect is muscle pain and cramping. It turns out that I'm one of the 20-30% of patients who get that. Real pain in the ass (literally!). They want me on the statin to keep my cholesterol down, but they also want me to take regular vigorous walks of an hour a day. Sorry, fellas, can't have both. . .

My stroke experience was exactly like yours - only deficit was vision, not any of the stuff from the PSAs. So, when the doc said, "You've had a stroke," I said, "No I didn't." . .

Barbara said...

I've only had one MRI and I totally understand. Starting in his 50's, my dad had an abdominal aneurysm, a triple bypass, a major stroke, several carotid artery surgeries (before he died, he set the record at MD Anderson in Houston), and then was diagnosed with diabetes. His dad and grandad both died at 69 and he fully expected he would, too. But he lived... and truly lived... until he was 86. Taking care of my mom, on top of his heart disease and diabetes, finally wore him out. But he was so strong right up to the end. You remind me of him. I think you still have a lot of life ahead of you. And I'm glad. This is truly a blessing that it was caught.